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CHINA: Renewed demands for information about the welfare of leading Uighur writer Nurmuhemmet Yasin.

Wednesday 9 January 2013 - 12:00am

9 January 2013

RAN 01/13

The Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) of PEN International reiterates calls for information about the welfare of detained writer Nurmuhemmet Yasin, following unconfirmed and disputed reports that he died in prison in 2010. Yasin was arrested in November 2004 and sentenced to ten years in prison for ‘inciting seperatism’ in his book Wild Pigeon. PEN considers Yasin to be detained in violation of Article 35 of the Chinese constitution and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which it is a signatory, and calls for his immediate and unconditional release.

According to PEN's information, unconfirmed reports that Nurmuhemmet Yasin had died in prison which have been circulating since 2010 were recently disputed by a family member, who claims to have visited him in Urumchi no.1 prison in July 2012 and found him in reasonably good health. She also reports to have received a letter from him in October 2012 which she believes is genuine. Yasin has spent most of the past eight years detained incommunicado without access to family visits, fostering speculation about his condition and possible death. However, Yasin’s wife and two children have reportedly been given permission to visit him at the prison on 16 January 2013. In spite of repeated requests for information about his condition, the Chinese government has remained silent on the issue.

Nurmuhemmet Yasin was arrested in Kashgar on 29 November 2004, following the publication of his book Wild Pigeon (Yawa Kepter) in a Kashgar literary journal. Authorities also confiscated his personal computer containing an estimated 1,600 poems, commentaries, stories, and one unfinished novel. After a closed trial in February 2005 at which he was not permitted a lawyer, Yasin was sentenced by the Maralbesh Country court to 10 years in prison for "inciting Uighur separatism" in the book. His sentence was upheld on appeal by the Kashgar Intermediate Court, and Yasin was transferred on 19 May 2005 to Urumchi No. 1 Jail, where he is thought to remain detained.

Yasin first published his short story Wild Pigeon (Yawa Kepter) in the bi-monthly Uighur-language Kashgar Literature Journal, issue No. 5, November 2004. The story tells the first-person narrative of a young pigeon - the son of a pigeon king - who is trapped and caged by humans when he ventures out to search for a new home for his flock. In the end, he commits suicide by swallowing a poisonous strawberry rather than sacrifice his freedom, as his own father committed suicide under similar conditions years earlier. "The poisons from the strawberry flow through me," the unnamed pigeon remarks to himself at the end. "Now, finally, I can die freely. I feel as if my soul is on fire-soaring and free."

Yasin's story was widely circulated and recommended for one of the biggest Uighur literary websites in the Uighur Autonomous Region for outstanding literary award. It also attracted the attention of the Chinese authorities, who consider the fable to be a tacit criticism of their government in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.

Nurmuhemmet Yasin, aged 39, is an award-winning and prolific freelance Uighur writer. He has published many highly acclaimed literary works and prose-poems in recent years, including the poetry collections First Love, Crying from the Heart, and Come on Children. He is said to be a mature writer with an established literary credential among Uighur readers. He is married with two young sons.

Wild Pigeon was translated from the Uighur into English and Chinese
by Dolkun Kamberi, director of Radio Free Asia's (RFA) Uighur service.
It has been adapted for broadcast by RFA's Uighur service, edited in English by Sarah Jackson-Han, and produced for the English Web by Luisetta Mudie. The English translation is available online in two parts as follows:

Please send appeals:Calling for information about the welfare of detained writer Nurmuhemmet Yasin, following unconfirmed reports that he died in prison in 2010.

Reiterating demands for Yasin’s immediate and unconditional release, in accordance with Article 35 of the Chinese constitution and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which it is a signatory;

Send appeals to:
His Excellency Hu Jintao
President of the People’s Republic of China
State Council
Beijing 100032
P.R. China

Please note that there are no fax numbers for the Chinese authorities. WiPC recommends that you copy your appeal to the Chinese embassy in your country asking them to forward it and welcoming any comments.

You may find it easier to write to the Chinese ambassador in your own country asking him or her to forward your appeal. Most embassies are obliged to forward such appeals to the relevant officials in the country. A letter or petition signed by an eminent member of your Centre may give make it more likely for your appeal to be considered. Similarly if your appeal is published in your local press and copied to the Chinese ambassador, this too may have greater impact.

See this useful link to find the contact details of the Chinese embassy in your country Chinese embassies abroad

**Please contact the PEN WiPC office in London if sending appeals after 31 January 2013**

For further information please contact Cathy McCann at International PEN Writers in Prison Committee, Brownlow House, 50/51 High Holborn, London WC1V 6ER, Tel.+ 44 (0) 20 7405 0338, Fax: +44 (0) 20 7405 0339, email: